India: The relationship between God and country – Rabindranath Tagore

Surya Namaskar

Rabindranath TagoreThe Darul Uloom Madrasa in Deoband—so-called because it once had an ancient Shiva temple in it—recently issued a fatwa against the performance of Surya Namaskar by Muslims in Madhya Pradesh schools. As today is Makar Sankranti, the day all Indians salute Surya, the Lord in the Sun, we have decided to reproduce this dialogue between Suchitra and Gora from Rabindranath Tagore’s epic novel Gora published in Calcutta in 1910. Here the heroine, Suchitra, has come under Christian influences and is questioning the hero, Gora:

She put aside her shyness and said with simple modesty, “I have never before thought about my country so greatly and so truly. But one question I will ask: What is the relation between country and religion? Does not religion transcend country?”

He replied, “That which transcends country, which is greater than country, can only reveal itself through one’s country. God has manifested his one eternal nature in just such a variety of forms…. I can assure you that through the open sky of India you will be able to see the sun therefore there is no need to cross the ocean and sit at the window of a Christian church.”

“You mean to say that for India there is a special path leading to God? What is this speciality?” asked Suchitra.

Pongal“The speciality is this,” replied Gora, “it is recognised that the Supreme Being who is without definition is manifest within limits – the endless current of minute and protracted, subtle and gross, is of Him. He is at one and the same time with endless attributes and without attributes; of infinite forms and formless…. In other countries they have tried to confine God with some one definition. In India no doubt there have also been attempts to realise God in one or other of his special aspects, but these have never been looked upon as final, nor any of them conceived to be the only one. No Indian devotee has ever failed to acknowledge that God in His infinity transcends the particular aspect which may be true for the worshipper personally.”

Later on Gora rejects Christianity in more clear terms:

Suchitra had been listening with her head bowed, but now she lifted her eyes and asked, “Then what do you tell me to do?”

“I have nothing more to say,” answered Gora, “only this much I would add. You must understand that the Hindu religion takes in its lap, like a mother, people of different ideas and opinions, in other words, the Hindu religion looks upon man as man and does not count him as belonging to a particular party. It honours not only the wise but the foolish also and it shows respect not merely to one form of wisdom but to wisdom in all its aspects. Christians do not want to acknowledge diversity; they say that on one side is Christian religion and on the other eternal destruction, and between these two there is no middle path. And because we have studied under these Christians we have become ashamed of the variety that is there in Hinduism. We fail to see that through this diversity Hinduism is coming to realise the oneness of all. Unless we can free ourselves from this whirlpool of Christian teaching we shall not become fit for the glorious truths of Hindu religion.”

You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. — James Allen


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